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Like a Shag on a Rock
When Blastwave reached
the bungalow where his team
was staying in Australia, he was
late enough for Tanger to snap,
"What took you so long?"
"It's busy, is all, there are joggers
and dogwalkers everywhere, and lines
in all the shops," he said. "Plus everybody
walks on the left, not just drives on the left,
so I kept bumping into people all the time."
"How did you get so wet?" Tanger demanded.
"It's an oven out there. I don't know why it's
so hot, I thought it was supposed to be
fall here since it's spring at home."
Blastwave pulled off his boots.
A thin trickle of water ran out.
"Newsflash: Kangaroos may look
cute, but they're assholes," he said.
"One pushed me in a pond."
"Did you get the coffee?" she asked.
"I don't know ... maybe?" he said.
"It's dark and caffeinated, at least.
When I tried ordering, it was like
all the words were different."
"Tell me about it," Tanger grumbled as
she grabbed the paper bags from him.
"Some douchenozzle called me a cunt
and then wondered why I punched him.
Why can't they just talk English
like normal people?"
"Yeah, somebody told me that
I looked like shag on a rock, and I
had to ask her what it meant," he said.
"What did it mean?" Tanger asked.
"Something like low down and deserted,
which ... yeah," Blastwave said glumly.
He missed Limestrike, even after
the guy went and bailed on them.
"Maybe there's a cheat-sheet for it
or something, you know, like Tijuana
has for Spanish?" said Tanger.
"We can poke around for one."
Blastwave picked up his smartphone,
remembered that it wasn't working,
and tossed it back on the bed.
He'd gotten one of the "adapter" plugs that
would fit the outlet, but it still wouldn't run on
whatever fucked-up electricity was here.
They hadn't been able to bring much
with them, and half of it was already
broke for one reason or another.
"So how's it going here?" Blastwave asked,
hoping his teammates were having an easier time
than he was. Levinbolt may have gotten them
an assignment overseas, but being here
wasn't all it was cracked up to be.
"Do you want to hear about the scorpion
in my shoe, the giant spider that attacked me
in the car, or the fucking cockatoo that stole
my keys while I was fighting the spider?"
Tanger said, taking a swig of her coffee.
"Fuck me. How is this my life."
Well, Rayblaze died, that's how.
"They said to watch out for drop-bears
too, any time we go under the trees,"
said Blastwave. "Sounded scary."
Tanger snorted. "They're blowing smoke
up your ass, Blastwave," she said.
"Drop-bears aren't real."
"There's a museum page on them,"
said Blastwave. "I looked it up."
"Fuck me sideways," Tanger said,
throwing her empty cup in the trash.
Just because it started out a myth,
didn't necessarily mean that it still was one.
You never knew what some asshole gengineer
would up and decide to make one of.
"We should check the bands and see
how the news sounds," Blastwave said.
"The radio still isn't working so we
can't get updates," Tanger said.
Blastwave reached over to fiddle with it
yet again, but even his best efforts
produced nothing more than static.
None of them were very good with machinery;
that had been more of Rayblaze's territory,
especially when it came to sneaky tricks like
patching a tiny piggyback scan-send gizmo
into a regular piece of equipment so they
could access the soup frequencies.
His absence still ached too, along with
Thunderfist. Every time they lost someone,
it weakened the team. Blastwave wasn't
sure how much longer they could
keep going like this.
"How's Levinbolt doing?" he asked.
Tanger jerked a thumb at the door
of the bathroom. "Still in and out of
the can every hour or so," she said.
Just then the toilet flushed,
and Levinbolt stumbled out,
moaning about her bellyache
and the awful sunburn that
had made her so sick.
Blastwave couldn't blame her,
given that her normal goldenrod skin
had darkened to a rather alarming shade
of burnt orange dotted with blisters.
"Maybe you should consider
going to a clinic," he said.
"We tried that," Tanger said grimly.
"Turns out you need a card we don't have."
They kept running into problems like that,
because they were in Australia illegally,
thanks to Levinbolt's street contacts
and a teleporter who liked money
more than fussy legalities.
"Did you have any better luck
finding us weapons online than
in person?" Blastwave asked.
Beating the street for supplies
was how Levinbolt had gotten
sunburned in the first place.
"I wish," Levinbolt said,
cracking open a bottle of water
to chug half of it in one gulp.
"The laws are buttoned up
tighter than a frog's ass here.
I can't even find us zatzers.
God, what a shithole."
"No wonder they couldn't find
anyone else to do the job,"
Blastwave said. "It's always
risky taking the gigs you get
when you're desperate."
"A job is a job," Tanger said.
"Drink your coffee, eat your food --
what the fuck is this shit?"
"It came with the coffee,"
Blastwave said defensively.
"They called it fairy bread?"
Levinbolt picked up a slice
and sniffed it. "Smells like butter."
She took a bite. "Tastes like butter,
too, and candy sprinkles. Not bad."
"Yeah, you got a piece with each cup.
I guess it's a kiddie thing here, and
they meant it for nostalgia maybe?"
said Blastwave. "There should be
a chocolate one and a strawberry
still in the bag, if you don't like
the plain butter, I'm not picky."
"I'll take the chocolate," said Tanger.
"God knows I could use the lift."
She gave it a tentative nibble.
"Eh, I've had worse."
Blastwave ate the strawberry fairy bread
because it was food and he was hungry.
At least the coffee was decent.
Then Levinbolt moaned and
headed for the bathroom again,
closing the door behind her.
A moment later, they heard a shriek
and then an explosion.
"We're under attack!" Tanger barked.
Blastwave prepared to return fire
with his superpower as Tanger
yanked the door open.
Levinbolt had blown the back off of
the bathroom and was trying to target
a hysterical python slithering amidst
the dusty piles of rubble.
There were no enemies in sight.
"What the actual fuck?"
Tanger snapped at Levinbolt.
"There was a giant python in the toilet!"
Levinbolt screamed. "And it's getting away!"
She took aim at the snake again.
Blastwave grabbed her arm
and forced it toward the ceiling.
"It was probably just looking for
a nice place to soak," he said.
"They do that when they're about
to shed their skins; it makes
the old scales come off easier.
Plus shedding makes them
bitchy so they want to hide."
"In the toilet?" Levinbolt said,
jerking her arm away.
"Well, yeah, it's cool and wet,
a nice place for a snake in
this climate," he said.
"I've been attacked by
a python with PMS,"
"I want to go home."
"We can't go home, unless
you want to get arrested,"
Tanger reminded them.
"Speaking of which, we
should probably scram."
They had scraped up enough
to rent a bungalow from a place
that had a whole chain of them,
instead of going to a hotel, precisely
because when you were superheroes
shit like this tended to happen.
Everyone hurried to shove
their minimal belongings back into
their luggage as fast as they could.
"I'm good," Blastwave said, slinging
the portable radio over his shoulder.
"Let's move," Tanger said as she
draped Levinbolt's arm over
her shoulder for support.
The radio sputtered, jangled, and then
the static gave way to a voice wailing,
"This is the worst trip I've ever been on."
"You said it, bro," said Blastwave
as he slammed the door behind them.
* * *
Tanger (Tanisha Lee) -- She has light cocoa skin, amber eyes, and slightly wavy hair of brilliant orange that she wears at shoulder length. Originally her skin was a much darker and less even brown, with nappy black hair. Tanisha has excellent endurance, both in terms of stamina and tolerating discomfort. She is not easily swayed from anything she wants.
Tanger belongs to the superhero team the Spectrum, along with Blastwave. Two of their original six members, Rayblaze and Thunderfist, were killed in action by the Undertaker. After Rayblaze's death, Tanger has taken over leading the team. They specialize in raiding supervillain lairs, including labs. They're good at cracking open establishments, but poor at minimizing the collateral damage. This is beginning to attract more negative attention.
Origin: As a girl, Tanisha hated the way she looked. She constantly tried different products to lighten and smooth her complexion, change her hair color and texture, etc. Her search for more impressive effects led her to gray-market makeup, and eventually a bad batch peeled off her skin and made all her hair fall out. She spent months in the hospital and nearly died of several infections before everything grew back -- but now her skin is a pure sleek cocoa and her hair is a brilliant, silky orange. This makes her much happier about her appearance. Her therapist was appalled that such a dangerous habit turned out so well. Tanisha fired her and became a superhera.
Uniform: Black dexflan jumpsuit with an orange capery cape.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Martial Arts, Good (+2) Endurance, Good (+2) Spatial Intelligence, Good (+2) Teamwork
Poor (-2) Stubborn
Superpowers: Good (+2) Pain Ray, Good (+2) Regeneration
Motivation: When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.
Blastwave (Taylor von Neumann) -- He has violet skin, shading to indigo, cobalt, and teal in places. He has brown eyes and short curly brown hair tending to purple in places, with a mustache and beard. Taylor is svelte and graceful with well-defined muscles. He has good focus and bravery, but often gets into trouble that could have been avoided with a little forethought.
Blastwave belongs to the superhero team the Spectrum, along with Tanger. Two of their original six members, Rayblaze and Thunderfist, were killed in action by the Undertaker. After Thunderfist's death, Blastwave has taken his role as second-in-command. They specialize in raiding supervillain lairs, including labs. They're good at cracking open establishments, but poor at minimizing the collateral damage. This is beginning to attract more negative attention.
Origin: As a child, Taylor loved exploring his neighborhood with his friends. One day they played follow-the-leader through a construction site after closing. Taylor's best friend found some unsecured explosives and, mistaking them for firecrackers, set one off -- which killed him and seriously injured the other children. Taylor wound up with superpowers as a result.
Uniform: Black dexflan jumpsuit with a purple capery cape. At home, he likes to wander around nude a lot.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Hand-to-Hand Combat, Good (+2) Concentration, Good (+2) Courage, Good (+2) Follower
Poor (-2) Thinking Ahead
Powers: Expert (+4) Explosive Blast, Good (+2) Tough
Motivation: To support Tanger and the rest of the Spectrum.
Levinbolt (Desiree Watkins) -- She has goldenrod skin, brown eyes, and short black hair gelled into a mohawk. She is petite without much waist definition, but nice curves at chest and hips. Her heritage includes Japanese, Brazilian, and British. As a hobby, Desiree enjoys blowing smoke rings and smoke-filled bubbles.
Levinbolt belongs to the superhero group the Spectrum, where she provides contact with the underworld. Other than that she is a quintessential bad girl: she smokes, drinks, swears, sleeps around, and generally behaves like a hooligan. She insists on being a superhera and not a supervillain, which is why she joined the team in the first place, but her background is a lot rougher. She wants to be admired and respected, which creates a tangle between deriving that from her monkeyshines or from her heroism. She is similarly conflicted between wanting approval and not caring if she pisses off some people. This causes problems.
Origin: Her high school science teacher science teacher brought a static ball to class one day and let everyone experiment with electricity. When she touched it, lightning flared around the room and coalesced in her body. The color change happened later.
Uniform: Black dexflan jumpsuit with a yellow capery cape. Off duty, she wears slutty clothes and enjoys picking on people who make an issue of it.
Qualities: Master (+6) Fast, Expert (+4) Wushu Kung Fu, Good (+2) Anticipation, Good (+2) Bubble-and-Smoke Sculptor, Good (+2) Friends on the Street, Good (+2) Survival Skills
Poor (-2) Conflicted
Powers: Good (+2) Lightning Bolt, Average (0) Yellow Skin
Poor (-2) Bad Girl
Motivation: To be admired.
* * *
"Like a shag on a rock" is Australian slang for feeling alone, deserted, forlorn, or left out.
Darwin lies in the Northern Territory of Australia and has interesting weather.
The bungalow style of house appears in many places around Australia. See a floor plan.
Watch a video of a kangaroo kicking a man into a lake.
Read about adapter plugs and power transformers for tourists in Australia.
(Creepy-crawly links ahead.)
Scorpions are common throughout Australia.
Huntsman spiders get big in Australia, but bigger in Laos.
Cockatoos of Australia include the red-tailed black cockatoos found in the Darwin area. They love playing with toys, and in the wild, will find their own amusements to grab and fool with.
Drop-bears are an Australian myth, similar to koala bears but with much scarier traits.
Sunburn can lead to sun poisoning and may cause nausea.
Fairy Bread is traditionally made with ordinary butter and candy sprinkles. Nutella makes a good chocolate version. Strawberry butter is another option.
See the python in the toilet. Yes, this really happens.
"Sloop John B" is a classic song. Read the lyrics or enjoy a video.